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Sultana grapes at harvest point Mildura
Thursday 29 February 2024

In this edition:

Fire situation – stay informed
People in emergency overalls outside in a livestock yard

Our teams are on the ground working with impacted communities to assess the agricultural impacts of the Bayindeen-Rocky Road fire. The situation is rapidly evolving so please stay up to date with current warnings by following VicEmergency.

📱 Download the VicEmergency app.
💻Visit the VicEmergency website.
📲 Follow VicEmergency on Facebook and Twitter.
📻 Listen to local ABC radio.

The immediate focus for our team is urgent animal welfare needs and supporting our farmers. If your property has been impacted and you have urgent animal welfare needs, please contact the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.

Recovery assistance – 13 February fire and storms
Farmers who have experienced fire and storm impacts across the state from the 13 February severe weather events can contact us on 0427 694 185 or at for agriculture recovery assistance or advice, including technical support.

When phoning or emailing, please provide details that include a contact name, phone number and locality with a brief statement about the nature of your concern, so an appropriate member of the Agriculture Recovery Team can contact you.

Farmers who have been impacted by fire or storm events and have urgent animal welfare needs, please contact the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226

Getting on with the job of disaster cleanup

A lead contractor has been appointed for the Federal and Victorian governments' coordinated cleanup in the aftermath of last week’s devastating fires and storms.

Hansen Yuncken is a disaster recovery specialist with the expertise to work on complex projects and will work with local sub-contractors to get communities back on their feet.

Cleanup activities for impacted households and communities will be jointly funded through the Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

The severe Victorian weather event of 13 February 2024 caused widespread damage right across Victoria with fires claiming 46 homes and a business in Pomonal and Dadswells Bridge, while the storms have left 44 homes uninhabitable in parts of the state including Mirboo North.

Demolition of damaged houses, asbestos and other hazard removal will be included as part of the cleanup in the affected communities while hazardous tree removal will also be part of the work completed.

The Victorian Government will also establish a centralised green waste facility for the cleanup and is continuing to work with the Commonwealth Government to finalise its location.

This program builds on the support being provided by the Federal and Victorian governments, which includes:

  • Personal hardship payments of $640 per adult and $320 per child up to a maximum of $2,240 per eligible family to help cover the costs of essentials like food, clothing, medication and accommodation.
  • Australian Disaster Recovery Payments for people affected by fires in the Rural City of Ararat. Payments of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child are available to that community.
  • Emergency re-establishment grants of up to $49,300 for people who are uninsured and their primary place of residence has been destroyed or is uninhabitable.
  • Prolonged Power Outages Payments of up to $1,920 per week for households and up to $2,927 per week for up to three weeks for affected small businesses.
  • A Community Recovery Officer deployed to Ararat Rural City, Casey City, Cardinia Shire, South Gippsland Shire and Yarra Ranges Shire to help identify the recovery needs of individuals and families.

The Emergency Recovery Hotline has been activated to process calls from anyone affected by fires or storms. To access recovery support, affected residents can call the Hotline on 1800 560 760.

The Recovery Support Program has also been stood up and is available for people to access via the Emergency Recovery Hotline on 1800 560 760. This includes mental health support, case management, business support and can connect people with the additional and existing services.

Life memberships for Birchip Cropping Group quartet
image of two men and two women with the women holding flower bouquets. All in front of BCG banner.

After 128 years of service to Australia’s leading farming systems group, Ian and Anne McClelland and John and Robyn Ferrier were today awarded life memberships of Birchip Cropping Group (BCG).

The life memberships, which were presented today at the group’s Trials Review Day, recognised the leadership, vision, passion and hard work each has provided BCG over four decades.

In making the announcement, Vice Chair Greg Kuchel said the Birchip-based leading not-for-profit organisation may never have materialised without the contribution of these community leaders.

'Ian, Anne, John and Robyn’s unwavering passion, dedication and perseverance have helped propel BCG into the renowned science-led organisation it is today,' he said.

'All have helped BCG overcome profound challenges like the millennium drought, expanding local research, development and extension at a time when resources were being pulled from state government bodies.'

The four join just two other life members, David Smith and Rodney Mitchell who were bestowed the honour in 2016.

David Smith, who served as BCG Board member alongside all four recipients believes each individual emanates the heart and soul of the organisation born from a love of farming and community:

'Every person that comes to BCG, they make welcome. Over the years they have hosted hundreds of people in their homes.'

Read the media release in full here.

Don't be calm - panic grasses can be deadly for lambs
image of ewe with two lambs in foreground with rocky paddock in background

Dr Jeff Cave, Agriculture Victoria Senior Veterinary Officer

Panic grasses have thrived in some crop stubbles and other pastures with recent summer storms.

Some common names for panic grasses include fairy grass, witch grass and hairy panic.

These grasses can cause photosensitisation and death, particularly in lambs.

The young, rapidly growing grasses contain steroidal saponins, which when eaten can form crystals in the liver, damaging the liver cells and obstructing the outflow of bile.

The breakdown products of chlorophyll, which is found in green grass, are then no longer cleared by the liver and cause damage to skin tissues when exposed to light.

So, the thin skinned, wool-free parts of the sheep which are exposed to sunlight get damaged and show signs like severe sunburn. Typically affected areas are the ears, eyelids, nose, lips and vulva.

Affected lambs will seek shade and be reluctant to graze.
The liver damage may lead to jaundice, and with the swelling caused by photosensitisation the condition is sometimes known as ‘yellow bighead’.

This liver damage can kill the lambs before photosensitisation develops.

The only treatment is to remove affected stock from the toxic pastures and provide them access to shade.

If this happens promptly, affected stock can recover completely, as the liver has a remarkable ability to heal itself.

However, some livers may never recover totally, and this leads to ongoing poor metabolic processing of food consumed.  So, food conversion efficiency will be poor, and the animals may never do well.
The best prevention is to avoid grazing risky paddocks. If this is not possible never put hungry sheep straight out onto risky pastures but give them a good feed of hay first.

If possible, graze older sheep as they have better developed rumens and are more resistant to the effects of the toxin, and check the sheep twice daily until you are confident they have no ill effects.

For further advice please contact your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer.

After the Flood podcast series - episode 3
lady in front of canola paddock

When we think of livestock on farms, it's usually the hooved variety. However, in Victoria, one of the biggest livestock varieties doesn't have hooves.

They have wings.

Hear from Natalie Doran-Browne from Wondermazing Honeybees as she discusses the road to recovery after the loss of hives in the 2022 floods, helped along by the support of the bee keeping industry.

Listen via the AgVic website

Consultation on animal welfare laws extended
Illustration of animals in traiangle shape on aqua background

The Victorian Government has extended the consultation period on the draft Bill for the new animal care and protection laws.

Victorians now have until Monday 25 March to have their say on the Bill – which will replace the current Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTA Act).

Executive Director of Animal Welfare Victoria, Dr Trevor Pisciotta, said the extension gives interested people and organisations more time to make a submission, following recent extreme weather events.

‘We’ve been committed to engaging with key stakeholders and the Victorian community throughout these reforms – this is the third and final round of consultation.’

‘Regional communities have already strongly influenced the form of the Draft Bill, which will help to maintain the trust of our trading partners, consumers and the community in Victoria’s animal-based activities and industries’, Dr Pisciotta said.

In addition to the three consultation rounds, Agriculture Victoria has consulted with more than 50 organisations representing people involved with animals or with an interest in animals and the law. The feedback has been carefully considered and contributed to the reform process to date.

Dr Pisciotta said the POCTA Act is nearly 40 years old and does not always reflect current community expectations, developments in animal science or changing industry practices.

‘Demonstrating a high standard of animal welfare is critical in supporting Victorian industries to maintain access to important markets. For most Victorians, there will be no major changes to the way they operate daily.’

‘These laws will strengthen Victoria’s reputation as a humane and responsible producer of food – while being fit-for-purpose for modern day farming practices’, Dr Pisciotta said.

Key changes include minimum standards of care and requirements around husbandry procedures – which already feature in the existing codes of practice and Australian Standards and Guidelines for Animal Welfare.

The proposed laws recognise animal sentience – that animals can have positive and negative experiences. Being explicit about this won't change how Victorians need to treat their animals, or whether they can be owned or used by humans. It won't create any legal rights for third parties, and it won't give animals legal rights.

Dr Pisciotta encourages interested community members, groups and organisations to make a submission and complete a survey about future regulations.

‘Please visit the Engage Victoria website, where you will find supporting materials to help you make a submission, including a guide to the draft Bill and a list of Frequently Asked Questions,’ Dr Pisciotta said.

For more information and to make a submission visit Engage Victoria.

Bolstering native food markets through Blockchain

The Victorian Government is helping to bolster the native foods industry by supporting Traditional Owners with new options to track and sell native foods through blockchain.

Around 70 native foods business practitioners attended the inaugural First Nations Native Food Blockchain Workshop at Healesville last week.

The workshop was delivered by the RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub in partnership with Agriculture Victoria and the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owners Corporation (FVTOC).

Over two days, the workshop explored the potential for blockchain technology to support positive outcomes for Victorian Aboriginal native food businesses. The workshop also focused on ways in which blockchain can support and uphold Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property rights for Victorian Traditional Owners.

Blockchain technology offers new abilities for data management and governance by enabling decentralised and tamper-resistant storage. It enables new and unique ways to further enable Aboriginal self-determination and data sovereignty for First Nations people within the native foods and botanicals industry.

The technology also offers a secure and transparent system for tracking product authenticity, with the ability to store and manage traditional knowledge and stories.

This workshop aligns with the objectives of the Traditional Owner Native Food and Botanicals Strategy, developed by the FVTOC and the Victorian Government in 2021, which laid out a plan to create a strong, authentic and sustainable bushfood sector.

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Climate webinar recording available
trees grazing visible through forest

Presented by Agriculture Victoria:

  • Heather Field
  • Graeme Anderson
  • Alison Kelly.

Victorian farm businesses are getting on with the job of growing more food and fibre, while dealing with changeable seasons and weather patterns. We also know more attention is being paid to the carbon and emissions performance of our agricultural industries and farms.

In this webinar recording, Agriculture Victoria's climate team share some tools and resources they have developed to support the farming communities of Victoria to make sense of carbon and emissions on farm.

View the recording here.on Zoom
Duration: 62 minutes (including questions)
Password: Climate

This webinar was originally presented on Tuesday 27 February  at 12 pm.

All climate webinar recordings can be found on our website.

Useful websites

Other program support for trees on farm

Horticultural Netting Program now open

Grants of up to $150,000 are available to eligible producers of commercial horticulture crops, excluding wine grapes, to purchase and install new netting over established production areas.

The program now includes a self-installation allowance if you wish to self-install netting.

Applications close 8 April.

For more information about the program visit the Horticultural Netting Grants for Victorian Horticulturalists page on our website.

This program is delivered by the Victorian Government on behalf of the Australian Government.

AgTech Innovators Season 2 Episode 2
man in suit jacket smiling in front of building material

‘Walk a mile in someone's shoes’, is a mantra that also applies when it comes to supporting startups. 

Guy Franklin has walked the path of developing his own tech venture and is now supporting others to do the same. 

Being clear on who your customer is, how big the market is and why this is such a big deal, is some of the advice Guy Franklin provides in this episode of AgTech Innovators. 

Listen online via the AgVic website

Mosquitoes can spread serious diseases
illustration of mosquito biting on an orange background

The risk of mosquito-borne diseases is highest in October to late April in Victoria, as mosquito numbers peak.

Mosquito-borne diseases include Japanese encephalitis (JE).

JE is a rare but potentially serious infection of the brain caused by a virus that can spread to humans through mosquito bites.

The best way to prevent mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid mosquito bites.

  • Cover up – wear long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing as mosquitoes can bite through tight clothing.
  • Use mosquito repellents containing picaridin or DEET on all exposed skin.  Apply over the top of sunscreen and reapply after swimming or sweating.
  • Limit outdoor activity if lots of mosquitoes are about.
  • Remove stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed around your home or campsite.
  • On holidays make sure your accommodation is fitted with mosquito netting or screens.
  • Don’t forget the kids – always check the insect repellent label. On babies, you might need to spray or rub repellent on their clothes instead of their skin.
  • Avoid applying repellent to the hands of babies or young children.
  • Use ‘knockdown’ fly sprays and plug-in repellent devices indoors.
  • Consider using a mosquito net that is treated with a residual insecticide if sleeping outdoors, including sleeping in a tent or cabin.
  • Mosquito coils can be effective in small outdoor areas where you gather to sit or eat.


Be prepared – JE is a rare but serious infection. Vaccination can protect you.


JE vaccine is free for eligible Victorians, visit your GP or local immunisation provider.

You are eligible for free JE vaccination if you:

  • live in high-risk areas of Victoria and meet additional criteria
  • live or work at properties with pigs
  • are going to high-risk areas for seasonal work.

Click here for more information on the eligibility criteria.

If you are going to high-risk areas for seasonal work, you are eligible to have a free JE vaccination, regardless of Medicare status.

Please note, while the vaccine is free-of-charge, some providers may charge an administration or consultation fee. Be sure to check if this applies to you.

Be on the lookout for blue green algae in farm dams

Recent flooding combined with warmer weather has increased the risk of blue-green algal blooms in farm dams.

Recognise the signs – blooms typically appear as surface scum that looks like a suspension of green paint, often with an earthy smell.

If a suspicious bloom is noticed, stock should be removed as quickly as possible, and a safe alternative water supply provided.

Blue-green algae can cause poisoning in livestock.

Learn more HERE

Central Highlands growers sign up today to new hub

Artisan makers, growers and producers are encouraged to sign up for free to the Central Highlands Growers and Producers Hub hosted by Ballarat Commerce.

This new hub currently showcases 80 passionate growers and producers and is open to all growers and producers based in the Central Highlands. 2024 Membership is free.

Benefits of the hub include:

  • connections with hospitality industry and food lovers
  • opportunity to connect with other businesses with similar values and aspirations
  • option to participate in a research study with Federation University
  • access to several business development opportunities at no cost.

To join, visit Central Highlands Growers and Producers Hub or contact Tatiana Collier at Commerce Ballarat on 5333 3233 or email.

Fox and wild dog bounty resumes
image of fox facing right in long grass

Victoria’s bounty collections will resume on 4 March 2024.

Please continue to check our website for the latest information, collection centres and dates.

For any assistance, please speak to our bounty collection staff on collection days or call our customer service centre on 136 186.

Citizen scientists hop to it with rabbit virus tracking project
rabbits in paddock

Aussies are urged to join in the longest-running citizen science survey of rabbit diseases in the world, to help keep the costly invasive pest in check.

Read the media release here.


Anthrax vaccination program continues in Shepparton

Agriculture Victoria is continuing to vaccinate livestock at properties in the Shepparton region, following the recent detection of anthrax on two farms.

Almost 6,000 cattle and sheep have been vaccinated as part of the response so far, with private veterinarians working alongside members of Agriculture Victoria’s Animal Health team.


GRDC leads $42M initiative to bolster biosecurity for Australia's grain growers

A groundbreaking $42.7 million national biosecurity initiative led by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) in partnership with five state government departments is set to transform the effectiveness and responsiveness of Australia’s grains biosecurity system.


New SPAA manual brings grower insight to precision ag

Australian grain growers will benefit from new insights into precision agriculture (PA) for the grains industry with the release of the PA in Practice III manual.

Produced by the Society of Precision Agriculture Australia (SPAA) with GRDC investment, the manual is part of the project precision fertiliser decisions in a tight economic climate.


Start-ups invited to field-test future agtech

Are you at the forefront of agricultural technology? Do you have an innovative agtech solution that could redefine grain growing in Australia?

Expressions of interest are now open for the GRDC GroundUp Program and startup founders with innovative, real-world solutions to improve grain farming productivity and practices are encouraged to apply. Click here to learn more.

AgVic Emergency Animal Disease feature on Landline

ABC Landline took a behind the scenes look at our work in emergency animal disease preparedness.Over 3 days last November our district vets, animal health and laboratory staff took part in a simulated training exercise to test livestock for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

You can watch the story now on the ABC website.

Public consultation to modernise planning regulation for animal production

Victorians can now have their say on proposed changes to the state’s planning regulations for animal production.

The changes will exist as a new Clause in the Victoria Planning Provisions and apply to all planning schemes in Victoria.


Expanded Eligibility For Power Outage Payments

The Federal and Victorian Governments will continue to support Victorians impacted by severe weather this summer.

The eligibility criteria for the Prolonged Power Outage Payments (PPOP) is being extended to reflect the unique nature of two extreme storm events in short succession.


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What's On

Details about Agriculture Victoria events can now be found in one spot on our website.

Visit to find out what's on.

Wimmera Machinery Field Days
man showing group of students prickles on a table at field days

5 - 7 March

37 Field Days Road


Visit us in the Alan Heard Pavilion for grains, meat and wool, animal health and research resources.

At our field days site we will have:

  • Ag recovery technical assistance and support available for flood and storm affected farmers
  • Information on the season ahead, climate drivers and soil moisture models
  • Carbon and on-farm emissions resources
  • Farm Business Resilience information
  • Animal health and emergency animal disease resources
  • A prickle display and a selection of pulse grains bred by AgVic Research

To learn more, visit

Victorian Apiarists Association Recreational Beekeepers Conference
honey comb dripping on poster promoting beekeeeping confereence

9 March

9 am – 5 pm

Melbourne (Cairnlea)
Victorian Croquet Centre
65 Nobel Banks Dr




Successful beekeeping in challenging times

This 1-day conference will include live hive demonstrations as well as presentations with an emphasis on meeting the challenges of beekeeping in the presence of varroa.

Agriculture Victoria apiary team members Nikki Jones and Adam Maxwell will be presenting.

Book now, places are limited.

Register here.

RiskWi$e: Strategies to navigate financial risks in cropping – Lake Bolac

13 March
5 - 8.30 pm

Lake Bolac
Lake Bolac Football Club
Lake Road


Dr Graham Lean will provide valuable insights on how to mitigate potential risks and maximise profitability in the cropping industry.

For further information and to register visit FAR Australia events page here.

Dinner is provided so registration is essential.

Feed budgets and decision making - Ararat
Man kneeling in paddock with feed budget calculator tools

13 March
10 am to 3 pm

Agriculture Victoria Ararat office
233-239 Barkly Street

Register here.


Sheep producers in the Ararat area are invited to a free farm business success workshop with Cam Nicholson, Director of Nicon Rural Services.

Cam is a consultant with over 30 years’ experience in feed budgeting and decision making.

Explore the tools and principles of feeding your sheep, feed budgeting and preparing for the autumn break, managing climate variability and seasonal risks.

Cam is well known for his decision making – setting trigger points for decision making such as knowing what to feed and how to decide when to sell versus supplementary feeding.

You will leave the workshop with new skills and an action plan to achieve your business goals.

Genetics Australia - Today, Tomorrow and Beyond
Genetics Australia logo on green background

18 - 19 March

GMHBA Stadium
Melbourne, Victoria


The Today, Tomorrow and Beyond conference revolves around the future of cattle breeding, incorporating cutting-edge technologies, and showcasing new industry research and ideas.

The overarching objective is to inspire the next generation to leverage genetics in advancing top-tier dairy and beef operations while simultaneously reducing the carbon footprint of these industries.

Agriculture Victoria will be presenting at this conference including:

  • Professor Jennie Pryce, Agriculture Victoria Research Director Genomics and Cell Sciences, on a worldwide overview of 'Breeding for sustainability and resilience'
  • Dr Jo Newton OAM, Research Scientist at Agriculture Victoria on the role of genetic improvement in creating greater integration between our dairy and beef industries.

Click here to read the program in full.

To register, click here.

Calculating carbon for sheep and beef producers
woman on smartphone in front of herd of Angus black cattle

19 March
9 am to 1 pm

Mercure Hotel and Convention Centre
613 Main Rd


Join Professor Richard Eckard of the University of Melbourne for a free workshop hosted by Agriculture Victoria to guide you through calculating emissions for your sheep or beef farm. 

The workshop will be delivered in a hybrid format for participants to attend in-person or online via Zoom.

Workshop program

  • Why you need to Know your Number
  • How carbon accounting works
  • Complete the MLA Carbon Calculator for your farm, learn about key indicators and trouble shoot problems (using your laptop or one supplied)
  • Question and answer session with Professor Eckard and other Agriculture Victoria emissions specialists. 


To register click here.

Some preparation will be required. You will be supplied information and resources at registration.

For more information, please contact:

Jane Court, Agriculture Victoria on 0436 606 742 or email.

MLA Goat Roadshow Webinar

19 March
7 - 8.30 pm


Register here.


Are your goats fit to load? Are you planning to sell goats soon?

Make sure you understand your roles and responsibilities in ensuring animals are fit to travel before you start loading.

This free Meat & Livestock Australia Goat Roadshow webinar is designed to provide useful and practical insights on how to ensure your goats are fit to load before transport.

Hear from NSW DPI's Dr Petrea Wait, Agriculture Victoria’s Dr Berwyn Squire and Integrity Systems Company’s Elizabeth Bradley who will provide who will provide an overview of the Fit to Load legislation, plus on-farm advice for ensuring you meet animal welfare obligations, including the importance of checking animals prior to transport, your responsibilities and how to comply with NVD and NLIS requirements.

MLA invites goat producers to join to find out more on:

  • Understanding when an animal is and isn’t fit to make a journey
  • Preparing animals for transport
  • Individual roles and responsibilities in ensuring animal welfare
  • Practical tips and resources available
  • Livestock traceability - understanding LPA requirements around animal welfare, completing NVDs and updating the NLIS database.

Make sure you understand your responsibilities in ensuring compliance with the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock.

Managing vulnerable Mallee soils paddock walk and pit inspection
Tractor pulling harrow through stubble

25 March
2.30 pm – 5.30pm

Meet corner Calder Hwy and Chapman Rd by 2.30 pm to travel to paddock.

26 March
9.30 am – 5.30pm

Meet corner Cemetery Rd Cowangie and Mallee Hwy by 9.30 am to travel to paddock.

To register click here.


Agriculture Victoria has partnered with Birchip Cropping Group and Mallee Sustainable Farming and invite you to join us and our host farmers for a paddock walk at our demonstration sites focussed on managing vulnerable Mallee soils.

With soils expert Dr Cassandra Schefe from AgriSci, we will examine a soil pit and explore results and observations from these sites which look at the value of using bentonite clay and compost for soil improvement.


Dr. Cassandra Schefe - AgriSci

  • understanding vulnerable soils in the region 
  • soil pit investigations
  • understanding and managing soils on your farm as part of building drought resilience.

Roger Harrower - Agriculture Victoria

  • using bentonite clay and compost to improve water retention and support crop growth
  • results from the 2023 paddock demo sites.

Dr. Yolanda Plowman – Birchip Cropping Group (Ouyen event) and Nick Paltridge – Mallee Sustainable Farming (Murrayville event)

  • results from their managing vulnerable soils 2023 farm trials and other trials in the region.
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